THE police and Defence Force are engaged in an active hunt to recover a Galil assault rifle reported missing early on Sunday morning from Teteron Barracks, Chaguaramas, top brass told reporters later on Sunday at a briefing at the Ministry of National Security, Port of Spain.
Those present were TT Regiment acting head Lt Col Ashook Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel, and Deputy Police Commissioner Curt Simon responsible for investigations and intelligence, hosted by TTPS communications officer Joanne Archie.
Daniel said “something very disturbing” had just happened in the Defence Force.
Singh said at 12.30 am on Sunday, a soldier reported his rifle missing to his superior officer at the Support and Services Battalion.
In response the base was isolated. “Teteron Barracks remains confined at this time as we conduct the investigation.”
A preliminary search was done and then with improving light conditions a thorough search was done, he related.
“But the Galil assault rifle was not found.”
Singh said Western Division police were brought in to assist. He said the Defence Force was working with the IATF to gather intelligence to retrieve the rifle and bring the perpetrator to justice. “The TT Regiment sees this as a very serious incident and will continue to work alongside the TTPS to diligently find this assault rifle and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Simon said the police would leave no stone unturned in this matter, using its intelligence and investigative arm. He said a reward was being considered.
Daniel declared, “I want to assure the viewing public that the values that the defence force stands for will be enforced.” He said individuals who wear the uniform of the TT defence force must live by the highest standards and if they are found wanting, they would no longer be defence force members.
Anyone breaching the high standards and codes of conduct would be subject to the provisions of the Defence Act, he said.
Singh said the missing rifle was not loaded.
Newsday asked about spent shells found at crime scenes bearing TTPS/TTDF markings and about suggestions criminals had retrieved these from the defence force firing range and reconstituted them with primer, gunpowder and bullet.
Simon replied, “The comment you are referring to is one made by the director of the Forensic Science Centre. At the TTPS we held discussions surrounding that issue, about the possibility.
“It is just one of the theories, one of the hypotheses as to how this ammunition may be found with TTDF and TTPS demarcations upon them. It was just a hypothesis...”
He said neither the TTPS nor TTDF had reported any missing rounds.
Newsday asked who was counting rounds discharged during training by soldiers who might pocket some.
Daniel disagreed with any notion rounds were given haphazardly to soldiers to expend. “That, sir, is not the case.”
He said the military was very strict in accounting for its ammunition.
“Rest assured we do not take this lightly, hence why we are here putting to the public that a weapon has gone missing.”
In a statement issued later Sunday, the Ministry of National Security offered a $75,000 reward for information "that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of persons responsible for the disappearance of a rifle from a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force compound."
It said anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS, 555 or the St James Police Station at 622-3695.